Memorial Day is for remembering the men and women who have fallen in a time of war. Unlike Veterans Day, which honors all those, living or dead, who have served in the military. It was originally called Decoration Day by a proclamation General John Logan, on May 5, 1868. The proclamation also decreed it to be a National annual observation and the first year it was held on May 30,1868.
Remember the United States had recently fought a bloody Civil War. The country had not yet healed. General Logan's proclamation originally was in honor of fallen Union soldiers. The South had the Confederate Memorial Day observances with emphasis on the lost confederate cause and it was held in various southern states ranging from the end of April to mid June. It wasn't until about 1913 that the two halves of the country started showing signs of honoring American fallen, rather just the Union or Confederate.
Even though there were places in the United States that called it Memorial Day, rather than Decoration Day, it wasn't until the 1940's that it became the common name. It wasn't officially so named until 1967. That was that year the Federal government proposed not only changing the name but the date of celebration from May 30th to the last Monday of the month May. The law went into effect on the federal level in May of 1971.
There are those who may have observed the flag ceremony that goes with the holiday, where the American flag is raised at sunrise and then slowly lowered to half mast until noon. At 12:01 the flag is again raised full staff for the rest of the day.
What is the significance of this ceremony?
Half mast is in honor of those million plus men and women who have died in service to their country. Full staff represents the living rising up who will not allow their deaths to be in vain. The living honor this sacrifice by continuing the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Other celebrations held nationwide are parades, speeches, marching of veterans from various wars, listening to bands play military aires--and of course cookouts. This is the beginning of summer. Many choose to celebrate the latter rather then remembering, or even knowing the significance of the holiday.
National cemeteries and military installations have solemn and formal ceremonies. Always, there is the playing of the Taps to commemorate those who have died; and in many places the honor guard give a twenty-one gun salute. In this way, they give honor to the fallen heroes who have given their lives for freedom.
I apologize to those who don't particularly like country music, but I happen to think this is a good story set to music. A good reminder. There are quite a few unapologetic country singers who feel the need to honor American soldiers with song and video and this is one that honors the fallen from the time this country started until today.
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Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!